Travel Guide South America Patagonia

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Introduction

Icebergs..

Icebergs..

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Although in the minds of people Patagonia is a cold and flat plain in southern Argentina, this is only partially true as this is only part of Patagonia – the rest is occupied by Chile. Cold, windy and rainy, Patagonia still draws visitors to see it's amazing geography and natural wildlife. Visitors can hike round the amazing granite towers in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, hike on the Perito Moreno Glacier, climb the Fitzroy Mountains or watch the Magellanic Penguins in their natural habitat. Peninsula Valdez is one of the other features with many seals, sea lions and seasonal whale watching.

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Geography

Patagonia is the southernmost portion of South America mostly in Argentina and partly in Chile made up of the Andes mountains to the west and south and plateaux and low plains to the east.

The Argentine portion of Patagonia includes the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz, and Tierra del Fuego, as well as the southern tips of the provinces of Buenos Aires, Mendoza and La Pampa. In general this means that to the east of the Andes, it lies south of the Neuquén River and Colorado rivers.

The Chilean portion embraces the southern part of the region of Los Lagos, and the regions of Aysen and Magallanes. In general this means that to the west of the Andes, the line is made up by the mark of the 39°S line and everything south from this line, excluding the Chiloé Archipelago. Also the Antarctic portions of these two countries are not part of Patagonia.

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Cities & Towns

Although much of Patagonia contains rough landscapes, including mountains, glaciers, fjords, flats and islands, there are a few cities to base yourself or start your trip to the magnificent natural attractions.
These cities and sometimes smaller towns include:

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Sights and Activities

Cerro Chaltén / Monte Fitz Roy

Fitz Roy peak

Fitz Roy peak

© All Rights Reserved Flav-Greg

The Monte Fitz Roy, also known as the Cerro Chaltén (meaning smoking mountain) lies on the border of Chile and Argentina. It became known as the Monte or Cerro Fitz Roy, named after the captain of the Beagle, Robert Fitz Roy. The mountain was first climbed by a the French duo Lionel Terray and Guido Magnone. Despite the low height of the mountain it is listed as one of the most technical climbs in the world, because of the almost vertical granite faces. There are years that none of the expeditions that attempt to summit, actually makes it.

Peninsula Valdes/Puerto Pirámides

The Peninsula Valdez is a peninsula on the Atlantic coast in the northeast of Chubut Province, Argentina. It is an important nature reserve of the world. Each year the area surrounding the Peninsula Valdez, from May to December, is occupied by the presence of hundreds of Southern Right Whales (Eubalaena Australis). Puerto Pirámides is the only port in Argentina where you can embark on a whale watching tour. The Peninsula is part of the Patagonia, a beautiful region of Argentina.

Other sights and activities

  • Wildlife viewing around Peninsula Valdez.
  • Perito Moreno Glacier.
  • Trekking in Torres del Paine.
  • Boat trip to Cape Horn, the southern tip of South America.

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Events and Festivals

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Weather

The weather in Patagonia is more diverse than you would expect. Although cold weather is common throughout most of the year, temperatures can rise well above 20 °C or even 25 °C from November to March and winters, although cold, are not that cold. Central parts of Argentinian Patagonian are officially called a desert, because of a lack of rain and snow. It mainly covers a good part of Southern Argentina and some areas in Chile as well. The Andes Mountains and the cold Falkland current are the main reason that Patagonia is so dry, preventing most of the rain that falls on the other side of the mountains, to fall down here. There is also not much snow, even during the colder winter months. The Chilean part of Patagonia is much wetter, mainly because of he prevailing western winds, which can leave massive amounts of rain on the western slopes of the southern Andes Mountains. In winter, these mountains can get decent amounts of snow, suitable for skiing like for example around Bariloche.

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Getting There

By Plane

There are several ways of flying to Patagonia, with a number of exit points. The main airports are near Ushuaia, Punta Arenas, Rio Gallegos, Trelew, El Calafate and Bariloche. From and to here, there flights to other cities in the northern half of the countries, including those to Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires.

By Car

Route 40 runs in this region. Chilean Route 255 (This road comes out from Route 9) crosses into Argentina becoming Route 3. More Routes in this region include Route 53, Route 5, and Route 40.

By Bus

Bus companies Tirsa, TUS, Don Otto, Mercedes, Via Bariloche, Andesmar, TAC all provide services to and from Buenos Aires and other cities in the north like Cordoba and Mendoze to Patagonian destinations like Trelew and Bariloche, from where there are onward connections more south.

By Boat

The Navimag ferry runs between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales, with various routes making stops at Chiloé, Puerto Chacabuco and Laguna San Rafael.

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Getting Around

By Train

There is a fairly well-maintained night train service connecting Viedma, San Antonio Oeste and Bariloche. All other long-distance passenger service are suspended.

In the south there is a small track on Tierra del Fuego, starting 8 kilometres outside Ushuaia, which is called the 'train at the end of the world'. Although touristy, it is a beautiful ride and not without cultural and historical significance as well.

By Bus

The best connections are alongside Ruta Nacional 3 at the Eastern side of Patagonia. In the South Andes, there are pretty good short- and mid-distance connections, but there is no line going directly from the northern part around Bariloche to Los Glaciares.

Beware that in the summer buses are often full, you should book some days in advance (above all around Christmas, New Year, January 15 and January 31).

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Eat

In Patagonia, there are plenty of unique and delicious things to eat. As in all of Argentina, beef is important, but particular to the area is the cordero, lamb, which is of a unique flavor (supposedly because the Patagonian lamb eats a mixture of herbs found only in Patagonia) especially when grilled in the typical parrilla (grill).

Dulce de leche, similar to caramel and made by adding sugar to milk and cooking it, is used on nearly all desserts, including facturas (pastries eaten for breakfast or tea, or to accompany mate, filled with dulce de leche, dulce de membrillo, crema pastelera, roquefort, or many other things), alfajores (traditional cookies that consist of tiny biscuits stuck together), and many other Argentine desserts.

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Drink

Mate (pronounced MAH-tay), a bitter tea, is drunk very frequently. Adding sugar is not rare because of its bitter taste. Many different things can be added to the drink, including milk, sugar, lemon or orange rinds, and cinammon sticks.

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Sleep

There is no shortage of places to stay in and around the main cities, towns and parks. Do note though that distances between places can be huge in this part of South America, so be sure to plan accordingly.

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Contributors

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This is version 30. Last edited at 11:20 on Aug 10, 17 by Utrecht. 18 articles link to this page.

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